SEO Secrets: The Truth About the Ubiquitous FAQ

Have you ever come across a FAQ page and just flat out wondered why it existed? “Surely no one is asking questions about concession management at the 1923 French tennis championships frequently,” you think to yourself. To a certain extent, FAQ pages reside in an area of shared fiction. Both reader and writer contentedly pretend that these are questions that have already been asked, rather than questions that they simply want you to know the answer to. But there are reasons why FAQ pages are still ubiquitous even if they don’t seem to fulfill their intended purpose.

Why Do FAQ Pages Really Exist?

Of course, some people put up a FAQ page simply because that’s what has always been done. They see FAQ pages on other sites and decide that it looks professional. Ideally, however, FAQ pages are designed to:

  • Deliver basic information to the reader in a compelling way. The Q&A format simply makes something more readable — for the same reason an interview is often easier to digest than a biography. Of course, the company could just list its history, services, store hours, and address, but the text would be dry, dense, and (more importantly) ignored.
  • Bring the reader’s attention to something that they didn’t even know. The interesting thing about a FAQ page is that it often asks a question that the reader couldn’t possibly ask because they wouldn’t know to ask it. A seller of shoes might add in, nonchalantly, “How Long Do Custom Orders Take?” Herein is the embedded, implied knowledge that the store does take custom orders, neatly slipped into their consciousness.
  • Allow the customer to self-serve when encountering issues. FAQ pages can fulfill their stated intent by actually answering questions that are frequently asked, such as “Why is my hoverboard exploding?” But for the most part, these questions are now covered by a troubleshooting or knowledge base system, rather than  a FAQ.
  • Improve the website’s SEO. Finally, this is actually one of the major reasons FAQ pages still exist — they’re superb for SEO. They can answer questions that customers are actually searching for, such as “What are Milliways’ operating hours?” or, again, “Why is my hoverboard exploding?” This boosts search ranking and appropriately directs queries about the company to its actual website.

But all this potential usefulness can’t change the fact that most FAQ pages aren’t really helping anyone at all — not the owner, not the customer, and certainly not the search engines. FAQs have become so obligatory and so obvious that they are usually just used as filler.

Improving the SEO of Your FAQ

FAQ pages are uniquely useful for SEO because they are specifically designed to answer questions — just like a search engine. Any FAQ can be easily modified for SEO purposes — just remember that the ultimate goal is to provide usefulness to people. 

  • List full and specific questions. “How much does it cost?” may make sense in the context of your page, but it’s not going to make any sense to a search engine. “How much does a hoverboard cost?” is far better — and it makes it easier for readers who are just scanning down the page.
  • Separate larger FAQs into smaller FAQs. You might need a product FAQ, sales FAQ, and company FAQ. The goal of this is to make it easier for your potential customers to find information once they’ve been directed to your page.
  • Incorporate your focus and long-tail keywords. Just like any other page on your website, your FAQ should be designed to target a variety of keywords. In particular, focus on geographic keywords — it will make it easier for the search engine to direct users in your area to your website.

FAQ pages are interesting precisely because they are everywhere. Most people never think about their FAQ at all — let alone in an SEO capacity. But truly conscientious SEO marketers will optimize everything from their FAQ to their Terms of Service; if it’s on the website, it should be doing something for the website. A properly written FAQ has the opportunity to further the customer relationship while also adding a tremendous amount of SEO value. It only requires that you ask the right questions.

Bing It: Does Bing Even Matter, Or Is It Just a Waste of Time?

Let’s be honest. When we’re talking about search engine optimization, we’re talking about Google. We can ask ourselves questions like “Who’s Really Winning The Search War?” but they’re hypothetical at best and, yes, even a little patronizing. Google is clearly the girl that we all want to take to the dance. Realistically, anywhere between 80% and 90% of search traffic today comes from Google. So should we even care about Bing?

weight-loss-648689_1280The Internet Is Made for Porn

Every time the question of Bing comes up, someone kind of laughs and says “Well, it’s great for porn.” Then everyone kind of nods their head and chuckles, as though it’s just a joke. But it’s not. For the past few years Bing has actually been a remarkable search engine for pornography. Even when you didn’t want it to be. Even innocent searches would turn into pornographic ones, if you didn’t have your safe settings in place.

This is actually due to Bing/Yahoo’s algorithm, which has not “learned” the way that Google’s has that not all Internet searches can be judged based on popularity… because then the Internet would just be porn. What initially appears to be nothing more than a joke or a curious fluke is actually a very telling revelation of Bing’s major flaw as a search engine. It has no context; it’s not “smart.”

But that also means that it can be taken advantage of. Google has many exceedingly complicated algorithms designed to promote good content and demote spammy content. Bing/Yahoo provides a little of that — just enough that the web isn’t really, really atrocious — but not as much of it. So it’s probably understandable that some low quality sites may still focus on Bing, or that black hat techniques may frequent it.

hands-545394_1280But Some People Do Use Bing

And they’re not all perverts. For instance, this guy switched to Bing literally because he was being paid to do so (through Bing’s rewards). This weirdo thinks Bing is more aesthetically pleasing, because my search queries require a scenic backdrop. Others admit to using it because “it was default on [their] phone.” And it’s dumb, but that could actually be something we need to watch out for in the future — because most people don’t change the default search engines on their mobile devices, or even on their computers. (Who knows, maybe when Project Spartan ships, it’ll create a whole new wave of people who don’t know how to change their browser settings.)

Taking a broader view, it appears that Yahoo/Bing has a more mature age group, with more men than women. And yes, a great deal of mobile searches come from iOS, since Bing is the default search engine for both the browser and Siri queries. One might wonder if this skews the audience, and it most definitely does: as a whole, users on Bing tend to be wealthier. Why? Well, not to make too many assumptions, but it’s probably because they’re old enough that they don’t know how to change their default search engine.

UntitledOK, The Snark Aside… What About Ads?

As we move into more niche markets for our Google advertising, we realize that traffic isn’t necessarily anything. We’re using long-tail keywords and demographics to drill down to specific segments in Google… so why not use Bing? It really doesn’t make any sense to both claim that a smaller audience is better (in Google) and then claim that a wider audience is better (in Bing).

In fact, it appears as though Bing paid advertising could actually be more effective than Google ads. And less expensive. (Of course it’s less expensive; they’re desperate.) And if we’re going for a demographic that’s already within Bing’s small but stubborn realm, all the better. And if we’re paying per click, we can simply extend our advertising campaigns. Very few of us are actually paying for as much traffic as there is on offer.

But, of course, a PPC campaign is a radically different beast from search engine optimization. What about organic search? Are there ways that you can tailor your content to Bing in a way that Bing isn’t utterly irrelevant?

search-engine-optimization-687236_1280Search Engine Optimization  for Bing

Believe it or not — and you’ll probably believe it — there’s not a lot of information out there for SEO and Bing. While Google maintains a significant amount of Webmaster documentation and tools, Bing/Yahoo probably lost their own internal documentation years ago. Tailoring your site for Bing is a lot like tailoring your site for search engines circa 2008: a lot of keywords, above the fold content and fewer backlinks. Perhaps most hilariously, Bing only actually reads the first 100kb of a page. But unlike search engines in the days of yore, Bing pays attention to multimedia documents and social media signals. This probably pushes back to the whole porn angle, somehow.

Okay, so actually — tailoring your content towards Bing can actively harm your Google standing. For instance, Bing likes keyword-laden anchor text; Google hates it. But there are other areas in which the search engines aren’t at odds; Bing uses social media signals and Google simply discards them.

So, is it worth it to work Bing into your digital marketing campaign? It certainly seems as though PPC advertising may be more effective on Bing, or at least compelling enough to be tested. And if you happen to have a lot of resources at hand, it probably won’t hurt.

Bing/Yahoo can represent up to 20% of your market, depending on your industry, and that’s not an entirely insignificant amount. Moreover, Bing can more readily be manipulated and it has rather specific audience demographics — I mean, there’s like a 50% chance that the person finding your website is doing it through Siri.

 

How the “Football Picks Scam” Is Used to Build Content Authority

Big game coming up? Get out a list of 80 names. Send 40 of them a “tip” that the game will go one way; tell the other 40 the opposite. Now it’s just wash, rinse, repeat. Next game, take the last 40 winners, and do it all over again with groups of 20. Eventually, you’ll find yourself with 5 people who think that you can predict any game.

At each stage of this process, you can charge the winners a little bit more, because they trust you more. And the losers? Well, it was just a bad tip. This is known as the “Football Picks Scam,” and the most clever aspect of it is that it requires very little actual effort. All the Football Picks Scam needs to succeed is sheer numbers. And when all a digital marketer has is traffic

dog-665159_1280Throwing Everything Against the Wall

Tim’s a newbie digital marketer. His first client is a pool servicing, maintenance and repairs company. Tim knows that he needs to put out valuable, informative content on a regular basis, or his client’s marketing strategy will fail. Unfortunately, what Tim doesn’t know a lot about is pools. So Tim can create content, but he’s just not very sure about that content. And eventually, he really finds himself struggling to come up with information. In the last week, Tim has posted:

  • Ridding Your Pool of Murky, Dirty Water With Natural Remedies
  • Fun and Safe Pool Games for Children and Teens
  • 6 Eco-Friendly Ways to Keep Your Pool Warm and Comfortable
  • The Benefits of Saltwater Pools Over Conventional Pools
  • Could Your Poorly Maintained Pool Kill Your Child When You’re Asleep?

Martha, reading these articles, rapidly loses interest. “Ridding Your Pool of Murky, Dirty Water With Natural Remedies” claims that arsenic is a natural remedy, which she’s pretty sure isn’t right. “6 Eco-Friendly Ways to Keep Your Pool Warm and Comfortable” suggests that you set the pool on fire, which she’s almost positive is neither a good idea nor actually possible. By the time she gets to “Could Your Poorly Maintained Pool Kill Your Child When You’re Asleep,” Martha’s been lost. She has absolutely no faith in the writer.

But Mike, on the other hand, only read “Fun and Safe Pool Games for Children and Teens” — which, he thought, had some great tips — and “The Benefits of Saltwater Pools Over Conventional Pools,” which he thoroughly agreed with, as the owner of a saltwater pool himself. By the time he gets to “Could Your Poorly Maintained Pool Kill Your Child When You’re Asleep,” he’s already primed and ready to go: he trusts Tim.

Though, really, he probably shouldn’t. Tim has managed to build authority by doing something that, let’s face it, most of us do at one time or another: creating articles that are nevertheless based on facts that were never properly researched. He knows that he isn’t going to convince everyone, but he’s going to convince enough people for the strategy to work.

cube-442544_1280And It Does Work: Why Rolling the Dice Can Be Effective

Two major principles drive this type of strategy: the tendency to quietly disregard items that you disagree with and the tendency to focus on and promote the things that you do. In content marketing, we actually have a benefit that “The Football Pick Scam” never did — our “winning guesses” get pushed to the top, and our “losing guesses” can be eradicated entirely. Even the “losers” in our scenario will likely just shrug and move on.

As Tim’s marketing strategy grows, people like Mike will link to and promote “Fun and Safe Pool Games for Children and Teens” and “The Benefits of Saltwater Pools Over Conventional Pools,” while people like Martha will generally just leave. The good articles will show up with higher prominence on Tim’s client’s site, if Tim has properly configured his “popular” and “related” categories. Fewer and fewer people will ever see the articles that are incorrect, as they will be pushed to the bottom. Ultimately, Tim can even cull these articles entirely, as though they never happened at all. No more Marthas.

Tim has managed to build his content authority simply by crowdsourcing his quality control. He had no idea which of his five articles were actually accurate or not: the crowd told him. It’s a principle that almost all of the big entertainment sites today are using: they publish and post anything and let the audience vote on its merit. They end up with a front page that has only the best content, but only because there was a lot of trash to comb through. And even better, they barely had to do anything at all.

waiting-410328_1280…But It’s Not Necessarily the Best Use of Your Time

It’s undeniably true that you can build content authority and a brand by just throwing everything at a wall and seeing what sticks. But really, this strategy is almost an act of desperation. Tim could have just written five great articles about pools, if he knew anything about pools. And those five great articles would likely have performed better than the two articles that he ended up getting right. Tim also might just want to find clients with services that he actually understands.

Obviously, there are some areas in which this strategy works and some areas in which it doesn’t, mostly down to how educated the consumer is in that particular market. Science popularization sites can get science wrong — peer-reviewed journals largely cannot. A B2B marketing campaign will often employ this strategy much less successfully than a B2C marketing campaign, simply because of familiarity within the industry. And it’s also important to remember that this strategy works based on sheer volume. Smaller sites and niche sites need to make the most out of every visitor, every Mike and every Martha, that they can.

We often use the “throw it at the wall” strategy even without thinking about it. We may have an idea kicking around in our head that we aren’t quite certain is right, and we may simply think — “Well, I’ll float it and see what happens.” But usually we can benefit from a more thoughtful approach. It’s not that the Football Picks Scam doesn’t work — it clearly does — but, at its core, it’s a lazy attempt, and often a waste of time. There are other strategies that can work better if we give ourselves the time to think it through.

Back to Basics: What Is Inbound Marketing?

New to inbound marketing? Or, have you been randomly creating content without quite knowing why it’s a requirement for inbound marketing?

Inbound and content marketing pull prospects toward you instead of having you and your firm relentlessly hunt them down. In this model, the customer is in control. They check out their options and only make contact with a seller when they are ready to buy. To ensure that your product is the one that they choose, you need to lead them through the buying phases with inbound methodology. The steps along the way:

Research

Before you write a single piece of content, know who you are writing to. Begin by identifying your best prospects. Learn demographic information like their age, income and other data. Study their online habits. It can help to create buyer personas, which are semi-fictional composite characters that represent people who may buy your brand.

Start developing a list of keywords your potential customers may search. This is a list of likely keywords that users search when they hit Google to look for products in your industry. It should be updated frequently. Include search popularity information as well as related keywords. Don’t necessarily worry about hitting every one. With Hummingbird’s semantic search, synonyms and near matches are likely to bring in traffic, as well.

SEO isn’t everything, but, search engines remain one of the best ways for your business to be found. By starting with the terms surfers use most, you can increase your chances of your content indexing high in the search results.

Creation

Over half of all purchases start with a search engine query. Ensure that your site comes up in the results by creating relevant, useful keyword-rich content.

Blogging is the quickest and most basic place to start. Create content that educates and answers prospects’ questions. You should also be posting to social networking platforms. This can include links to your content, as well as content designed specifically for your social media account.

As you branch out, your content should include a variety of types of media: blog posts, articles, infographics, photos, social media posts, ebooks and white papers are all potential examples. The right mix for your brand will depend on your product and your audience.

Engagement and Conversion

Once the prospect is on your site, it is important to capture some information to continue with the buyer’s journey. Put premium content behind forms so that you can capture contact information. The forms should be easy and painless to fill out; otherwise, impatient readers may bounce.

Entice visitors to sign up for email offers and updates. This makes it easy for you to keep in contact and nurture the lead. Email series and regular newsletters are both great options for keeping your business in prospects’ minds as they work toward a buying decision.

It frequently takes many touches to close a sale. Create content that addresses all stages of the buyers journey so that you can be there with them as they continue to research and narrow down their choices.

Closing

This is where your lead becomes a client. Create landing pages for offers that are clear, compelling and end with a precise call-to-action. Once a decision is made, make buying as friction-free and easy as possible.

Keep track of the details about your customers using good customer relationship management (CRM) software. This allows you to develop a better idea of who your buyers are, which allows you to make content that is more personalized and directly addresses their needs.

Delight

Do everything in your power to ensure that your customer is happy. Check in with customer satisfaction surveys. Monitor social media so that you can respond quickly when a customer posts there with an issue or a gripe. Delighting your customers doesn’t just bring them back. It makes them advocates on your behalf, bringing you new prospects you may not have encountered without them. By always delivering an excellent product and service, you turn happy customers into advocates and champions of your brand.

The Gettier Problem: Justified True Belief and the Digital Marketer

moonIn 1963, Edmund Gettier wrote a 3 page paper on philosophy questioning the concept of “knowledge.” Prior to Gettier, the Platonic definition of knowledge was commonly used — justified true belief. Justified true belief states that if P is true, and S believes that P is true, S is thus justified in believing that P is true. Essentially, S has knowledge of P. Simple example: The moon revolves around the earth. You believe the moon revolves around the earth because you have seen its orbit. You thus have the knowledge, also known as the justified true belief, that the moon revolves around the earth.

But Gettier pointed out a flaw in this argument: you can believe the right thing for the wrong reasons. And that’s a problem we need to struggle with in marketing every day.

theaterThe Gettier Problem: An Approach of Assumption

You see a friend at the movie theater, and thus conclude they were seeing a movie. In fact, that was just someone who looked like your friend. But your friend was also there at the movie; you just did not see them. You thus have the knowledge, which is correct, that they were at the theater — but you believed it for the wrong reasons. Still, your knowledge would have been no different if you had, in fact, viewed your friend instead of the look-a-like stranger.

There are some problems with Gettier’s approach as a philosophical statement. It always requires that at least one step of the process be a clear mistake, and thus incorrect.  When attempts are made to iron that issue out, it treads dangerously on “all life as a simulated lie” territory. But on a more practical level, The Gettier Problem can be rather directly applied to digital marketing.

For instance, what if you had called out to that look-a-like? The illusion would have been destroyed. What if you later ask your friend why they didn’t say “Hello” when they saw you? They would have been absolutely perplexed. Maybe there would even be an argument! The Gettier Problem is really a problem with assumptions.

mouseBelieving the Right Thing for the Wrong Reason

We make “Gettier Problem” assumptions all the time. We are constantly believing the right thing for the wrong reasons. And that seems fine, until you realize that this can adversely affect your performance in the future.

I once had the most charming, frenetic ball of energy as a supervisor. She constantly complained that her wireless mouse would kill batteries while she was at home but not in the office — even though she used the exact same mouse. We tried buying her new mice, it didn’t matter. We tried swapping the mice, it didn’t matter. She used the same computer — an old laptop — with an identical dock both at home and in the office. So we replaced her mouse at home with a wired mouse and we knew that a wireless mouse drained batteries ceaselessly at her home.

That is, until she switched desks at work… and we found that she had the same problem. Slowly we realized the weird, simple truth: the keyboard tray that she had at home, and that she installed in her new desk, was indirectly causing the wireless mouse drain the whole time! The keyboard tray made her more comfortable, so she held on to the mouse and jiggled it, constantly, the entire time she was seated. When she was on the phone. When she was on a teleconference. When she was reviewing materials. When she was in a meeting. The mouse never sat idle! We knew that it was happening, but not the correct reason why.

Well, obviously if we’d had better knowledge, we could have worked that one out much faster.

question-mark-463497_640The Value of the Skeptical Marketer

Marketers are encouraged to outline clear goals and methodology during their A/B testing process for a very simple reason: unless you isolate the actions that you take, it becomes impossible to tell whether the results you received were related to those actions. Unfortunately a digital marketing campaign is rarely a “clean” environment. There are hundreds if not thousands of factors that could be tracked; as hard as we try, some element of guesswork will exist. And that also means that we have to be both intuitive and highly skeptical as marketers.

Let’s say you change your call-to-action and receive a 2.8% increase in conversions. That’s fantastic. It’s very easy to assume that it’s the call-to-action that worked. But if you regularly see a +/- variance of 3% in your conversion rate, it could merely be random. And if you don’t compare it to prior year statistics — or don’t even have prior year statistics — you might not realize that the shift was actually seasonal.

But even more infuriatingly, your call-to-action change could have worked, in itself, but not for the reason you think it did. Say you punched up the copy and made it a lot edgier. The call-to-action worked. But maybe it wasn’t because you made it edgier. maybe it was because it also happened to be shorter, which moved the “call-to-action” button above the fold.

In other words, the change of button location is what increased conversion. If you take the obvious answer, you’ll go around making your call-to-actions edgier and you may not see the same results. Instead, you could be changing your button locations to a greater effect.

A great deal of marketing is about avoiding assumptions. This is what separates the marketers who are attempting by-the-numbers optimizations and marketers who can easily intuit relationships within the field. You can train yourself to be a skeptic simply by always taking the time to ask questions about what you believe to know to be true.

What Is “Edgy” Marketing, Anyway, And Why Does It Disgust Us?

Companies have been trying and failing at “edgy marketing” since before 2009, and the concept itself peaked in popularity somewhere around 2013. If you run a search query on the very concept of edgy marketing, you’re returned twice as many failures as you are successes. So why is it that “edginess” still intrudes upon our marketing content? It would seem as though while creating edgy content died out, creating “content with edge” did not.

But it should. It really, really should.

dictionary-698538_1280A Matter of Definition: Let’s Define “Edgy”

What is edgy, anyway? Today, it’s considered some sort of “secret sauce” that you just layer onto something to make it punchier, brighter and more exciting. “Edgy” can mean almost anything to a client. Shorter. Bolder. Livelier. Funnier. Angrier.

Basically, just better. In fact, when most clients say they want their copy to be edgier, what they’re really saying is that it’s boring right now. And that could be for any number of things that have nothing to do with its Edge Factor.

But let’s define what edge really means to a marketer. Edge is a combination of things: silly, irreverent, blunt and direct. An edgy campaign doesn’t necessarily have to be an offensive campaign, but many are “mainstream” offensive: being a little rude to the customer, being blunt about profit goals or being overly obvious about a product’s marketing. Most of the problems with edgy marketing occur when the marketers cross too firmly over to “offensive.”

bubble-19329_1280Edgy is Easy — Facts are Hard

Edgy marketing is appealing because it’s usually easy. It appeals to our baser needs. Instead of creating a 6,000 word white paper about olfactory instincts and hormones, you can just create a splash page that says “You Smell! Buy Our Soap!”

But to backtrack on that, creating just any edgy marketing campaign is easy — creating a good one is very hard. And that’s why it fell out of favor almost as quickly as it came into it.

A trend with a rise and fall similar to clickbait, edgy marketing really only worked when it was unique and new. Once the market became absolutely inundated with edgy, bizarre and offensive ads, the consumer started turning away. The whole appeal of edgy advertising was that advertisers were saying things that advertisers weren’t supposed to say. Once everyone was doing it, what was the point?

It was no longer a small marketing rebellion; it was the status quo.

human-733478_1280A Generation That’s Out-of-Touch With Itself

You always run into problems when marketers try to appeal to a demographic that they can’t possibly relate to or understand. But what if they can’t understand their own demographic? Not much can really be said about “millennials” as a whole — this generation is a diverse group that’s mostly typified by its sheer terror of taking out loans and credit.

And for some reason when you’re wearing the marketing hat, everything just goes haywire. You can excuse it when it’s large advertising agencies; it’s people who are ten, twenty or thirty years older than the focus group. But when people are trying to advertise to their peers and wildly hitting off mark — what’s going on?

Well, that’s a case of client blindness: when you focus so much on what the client is thinking and feeling that you forget that the client may be very much like yourself. You’re thinking too much about “Well, these guys will find it funny,” and not asking yourself “Wait — do I find this funny?”

And that’s a real problem. The best content creators are often the ones who are able to really connect in an honest and open way to their clients. Not the ones who are just looking for a cheap emotional appeal.

accidental-slip-542551_1280But Let’s Get Back to the Epic Fails

You can and should cringe a little. In fact, you can also cringe at the word cringe, or worst yet, cringeworthy. We’ve explained why edgy marketing is still popular and why it fails, but not why it’s so absolutely disgusting when it does. In fact, it’s almost a little embarrassing.

You feel a little embarrassed for them.

An edgy campaign that fails has misunderstood the product’s role in your life so significantly that it’s just sad. They think that their service is so special that you would allow them to abuse you (“you’re dumb if you don’t drink this!”), or that you’re so stupid that you’ll buy into an obvious ploy (“drink this, it doesn’t totally suck”). They’ve completely misinterpreted you. 

And that’s like, the one job they had.

And sometimes it’s a little too spot on. Edgy advertising targets the immature. And we were all immature once. So, for those who have matured, it only reminds us of a time when we might have bought into that lazy advertising and been proud to do it. The last thing you want to do, as a marketer, is to trigger memories of awkward high school years. Unless you’re selling something to awkward high school people.

Most companies today don’t set out with the goal of creating an “edgy” campaign, they simply keep trying to add “edge” to their content to create something more compelling. But really, all that does is dumb the content down: it elevates base, emotional appeals, while reducing actual value. If balance is lost, the content loses its integrity.

Consider all of the companies that have tried and failed at “edgy marketing” a cautionary tale; trying to toe the line between memorable and offensive usually isn’t worth the trouble. That doesn’t mean that your content shouldn’t have personality, but that personality doesn’t have to come at the cost of respect for your audience.

Spring Cleaning for the Digital Marketer

As we enter into May, it becomes time to dust off our shelves and take stock — both in our home lives and our digital lives. Everything can benefit from a little spring cleaning, even our digital marketing strategies. An springtime analysis can be the perfect way to refocus and refresh.

gardenBegin Your Gardening Early

Though they may seem like instantaneous magic to outsiders, digital marketing campaigns take some time to grow. By most accounts, it takes at least six months to reasonably develop a campaign and to start seeing results from changes in campaign strategies. Start seeding your future projects now, so that they’ll be ready when you need them. As with a garden, if you let the seeding window go by, you may not be able to catch up in time for the harvest. (Of course, you also need a very clear plan and schedule, or your garden most definitely won’t flourish.)

clutterClear Out the Clutter

Sometimes a little focus is necessary to really drive home your success. If something isn’t essential to your process, now might be a good time to streamline it. Consider ways that you could make your own life easier from an outside perspective. Is your laptop no longer holding a charge as well as it should? Is your Internet connection iffy at best? Are you transferring documents from one program to another, when you could really just be using a single solution? We can become numb and complacent to daily inconveniences, all of which cost us our valuable time.

trashTake Out the Trash

Don’t be afraid to give your projects time to grow — but if they fail to perform consistently, it’s probably already time to drop them and start over. Most digital marketers have their under-performing side projects, and every individual marketing campaign has tactics that are just not quite clicking. Your time is your money. Consider culling your worst performing projects and strategies on a regular basis to make room for new ideas. Don’t consider it a failure, just consider it a learning process. The worst thing you can do is succumb to the sunk cost fallacy.

decorBreak Out the New Decor

Everyone recognizes the bright spring palette: yellows, blues, pinks and all manner of pastels. As the seasons shift, it becomes necessary to shift your content strategy. Remember: vague, generic evergreen content is fading out of vogue. Today’s content needs to be specific, informative and, above all, timely. Comb the news for events and developments or simply dive into industry-related media; you’re certain to find something that you haven’t heard about or thought about yet.

recycleRepurpose or Upcycle Old Items

Just because a project failed doesn’t mean everything involved in that project is worthless. Go over your old content and digital media to find things that can be repurposed or “upcycled.” Are there infographics that you could be using in a current campaign? Do you have prior domains that you now have a better fit for? Or could you use some of your old websites to boost new content or could you take old content in an entirely new direction? That old industry blog that went nowhere could become free downloadable content for a new campaign. Everything has some value, it’s just waiting for an new opportunity.

organizeLabel and Organize Everything

There’s a saying: an successful marketer is a marketer who understands their own goals and metrics. Hey, so it isn’t a catchy saying. Or, even, really a saying at all. It’s still true. While we may all understand goals and metrics in relation to our campaigns, too often we forget to organize our own work and our own lives. Have we finished all our client billing? Are we still billing each client the appropriate hourly amount? Have we been connecting with our leads? Have we pinged any of our prior clients lately? Take some time for yourself to get your finances and client relationships in order.

Remember all of those optimistic New Years resolutions you made just four months ago? You were going to get motivated, stay focused and remain organized? Well, for most of us, May is when all of that has started crashing down. That also makes it a great time to revisit your plans and make sure that you’re still on target. You can get practically anywhere you want both in life and in business, you just need a detailed map in front of you.

Content Marketing and the CTA: Stop Flirting and Get a Room

barstoolSave the flirting for the barstool. Your marketing content should be as bold as a hooker with a mortgage. Yes, you’re attracted. Yes, you’re ready to hook up. Yes, you have a condom in your shoe.

When you have a specific goal in mind for those reading your marketing content, don’t play coy. Spell it out by adding a call-to-action.

  • Start Your Free Trial Today.
  • Experience Our 90-Page E-book.
  • Never Miss Another Post.

Make it clear that your address on the Internet is a consensual space – both parties should benefit from the give and take.

podcastAsk for What You Want

Maybe you want to encourage visitors to your blog to subscribe to your podcasts? Maybe you wish more readers would share your witty offerings to Tumblr and Twitter? And wouldn’t it be great if visitors left their email addresses behind so you could launch a more effective and far-reaching marketing campaign?

Indeed it would.

But you might never know if you don’t ask.

Make it as easy as possible for visitors to your site to do exactly what you desire by taking them boldly by the hand, leading them to the bed, and satisfying them with the stamina of your awesome marketing prowess.

Creating quality content never felt so good.

This is what’s referred to in the business as adding a call-to-action, and it serves a single purpose:  To encourage a conversion.

cementAdd Content Links to Cement the Deal

Once you’ve caught your reader’s interest, finalize the transaction by hyperlinking the text to your CTAs. According to the Content Marketing Institute, a simple path to conversion is best. Making readers click through multiple links to get where they want to go is a no-no. Every frustrated reader is a lost conversion, and that’s the one debacle you want most to avoid.

But just linking to your call-to-action isn’t enough. Where you place it on the page is important too. Your most important CTA – the BIG one – goes in the upper right corner in what newspaper editors used to call “the space above the fold.” This is the corner where the most action occurs – the Bourbon Street of web addresses – if you will. Whatever content you place here will experience the wonders of Mardi Gras all day long.

fatstacksZoom In for the Money Shot

Once you’ve attracted your reader, impressed him with your content marketing skills, and guided him to click-through conversion, it’s time to sit back and reap the rewards. Maybe you’ve successfully subscribed him to your blog. Maybe you’ve just sold him your e-book. Maybe you’ve convinced him to sign up for your next paid webinar.

Maybe you only inspired him to leave a comment.

But he did exactly what you wanted him to do, and that’s good, effective marketing.

And it happened because of your calls-to-action.

Now get busy making it all worth his while.

 

 

8 Landing Page Mistakes We’re Still Seeing in 2015

A landing page can easily become the most important page on a website. Whether it’s promoting conversions from a PPC advertising campaign, email marketing campaign or even a physical mailer, the landing page serves as a central nexus for your conversions. But as simple as a landing page may appear, there are still many mistakes that a marketer can make when trying to improve and optimize their messaging.

commitment1. Not Committing to Your Call-to-Action

Consumers are often easily distracted. If you give them too much on one page, they may just leave or get confused. It can be tempting to offer the consumer multiple paths to ensure that they convert to something, but this is usually harmful. The reader needs to have a single clear path of action. Decide on a single call-to-action early on and base all of your conversion efforts on this one action.

And it isn’t just that the reader can get confused — the content can become confused, too. Think of your landing page like a magazine advertisement. Every piece of content has to be geared towards a single ultimate conclusion. When you have multiple paths towards conversion, your content will be unclear and unfocused.

wordy2. Being Too Wordy

More isn’t always better. A landing page has to be direct. In fact, many of the most successful landing pages have almost no copy at all; just images, a simple tagline and perhaps a paragraph of text. This is an area in which infinite scrolling designs can really shine, because it allows the user to reveal more information when they desire it, but it hides the information until they do so.

Of course, you will also need to keep a conversion prompt on the page at all times, regardless of the scroll. Some achieve this by periodically prompting for conversion between paragraphs; others approach this through a floating conversion.

followup3. Forgetting the Follow-Up

Once a reader has successfully converted, the follow-up thank you page can serve as a secondary landing page and prime the user for further conversion. If you struggled when setting a single call-to-action, here is where you can expand your options. A “request a quote” form could segue into downloadable content, or a mailing list signup could lead to a social media sharing page.

Not only is a user more likely to continue engaging once they have already engaged, but they have already shown that they are interested in the product, service or content that you can provide. So on a certain level, you’re merely giving the consumer more of what they want.

speed4. Not Paying Attention to Speed

The proliferation of easy-to-use content management systems and layout systems, such as WordPress and Bootstrap, have made it easier than ever for designers and developers to ignore the more technical side of things — such as loading time. But loading time and compatibility issues, while easier to manage, are by no means a problem of the past, especially for mobile devices.

Most landing pages have a lot of visual content on them, from videos to images, which need to be properly compressed and optimized without losing quality. Content delivery networks and caches can be used to further boost speed and reduce tech-related bounce rates.

gold5. Failing to be Specific About Your Value

“Join our mailing list for updates!” may seem specific enough, but it’s actually still pretty vague. “Get a 10% discount on your future purchases by joining our mailing list!” is better (though still a bit wordy). When prompting readers to convert, you need to anchor the value within the consumer’s mind as early as possible. And the best way to do that is to describe your value in a way that they can easily understand it.

And additionally, “Join our mailing list for updates!” is also bad not just because it doesn’t provide specific value, but also because it’s a cliche. Users are prompted with the exact same prompt multiple times a day. As with all advertising, you want to be both clear and unique with your value proposition.

wrong6. Placing the Conversion in the Wrong Place

It’s a silly mistake, but luckily it’s one that is easily fixed. Conversion prompts should always be visible on the page and should be at the bottom of the content rather than the top, so that the user is prompted to convert when they have already experienced the landing page and its messaging.

For an additional boost to conversions, consider placing two conversion prompts; one at the top right and one at the bottom of the messaging content. But the conversion prompts should look similar enough that they can easily be visually understood as a single path that the consumer can take.

form7. Using Overly Complicated Forms

Most people are not going to sit down and fill out an overly complicated form, especially if there are multiple input boxes that are “required.” Either collect less information or break the process into multiple steps. If you absolutely need to collect more information from the prospect, you can create a two-page form that has only the most basic information at the very start: name and email. Even if leads fail to finish the form on the second page, you can then prompt them to finish through their email address, hopefully recapturing them.

And if you absolutely need to create a single form on a single page, for whatever reason, strongly consider making the majority of the input fields not required for submission. As long as you’re at least getting a name and email address, you’re still winning!

generic8. Generic, Unmodified Content and Titles

Your landing page should be integrated with and customized by the messaging that has led to the landing page. Email links or PPC advertising should seamlessly lead to the content. If your PPC advertising campaign raises a question, the content has to provide the answer. If your email link is promoting a specific product, that product has to be the first thing the user sees when they click through. Otherwise there will be a moment of dissonance that the user may not recover from.

Remember: test everything. Landing pages are the best example of the value of standard a/b split testing. Something as simple as changing the color of your conversion prompt from blue to green (or from green to blue) could potentially produce increased conversions. When you’re dealing with a high volume of traffic, just a few percentile points could make a tremendous impact in revenue.

11 Tricks for Revitalizing Old Content and Increasing Its Lifetime Value

Don’t just abandon your content once it’s been published. Your old content can be just as valuable as your new content — you just need to keep it updated and circulated. In fact, old content can actually be more valuable than your newer content because it tends to rank higher in search engine queries. Well-written content can be leveraged for years to come with just a few simple techniques.

pages1. Add Interlinks to New and Old Content

Go through your older, more popular pages and find areas in which you can potentially interlink new content that you’ve written. Interlinking can greatly reduce bounce rates — provided that it is done sparingly and usefully. At the same time, make sure that all of your new content is properly interlinked to relevant content that you have created in the past. Conscientious interlinking is one of the best ways to push traffic towards older articles and to improve overall engagement.

2. Improve Your Most Popular Content

Your most highly-trafficked pages and posts are the cornerstones on which your traffic is built. If they fade from relevance, your site will fade from relevance. You can’t always guarantee that you’ll have a new “hit” on your hands. Protect your traffic by improving the content that is most often visited on your site. Add new information, curate better links and answer any relevant questions you’ve received. One important thing: don’t remove content while you update. If you need to update, it’s better to add additional content either at the top or the bottom. Apart from glaring errors or mistakes, removing content can be harmful.

brokenlink3. Periodically Check for Broken Links

Tools such as the Online Broken Link Checker can crawl your site for broken links. Articles that feature broken links will not be as useful to readers and not as readily shared. You may also have broken links to your own site and just not realize it — especially if you have restructured your website at any point. Broken images should also be reviewed for; nothing makes a website look unprofessional as easily as a broken image.

4. Share Your Old Articles on Social Media

Don’t use your social media accounts purely for new content. Share some of your most popular articles on your social media accounts from time to time. If you have a scheduling application, consider scheduling promotional posts in advance every time you post a new article. That way you can ensure your older posts are not forgotten.

oldletters5. Create Random and Flashback Features On Your Site

Your site can promote random, related and flashback posts to connect readers directly from new content to old content. Related posts are more likely to increase engagement because they are already related to what the reader is looking for — but random, popular and flashback features may be more effective for entertainment sites, where the reader may not be looking for anything in particular.

6. Elevate Everything to Current Content Standards

When a site is first developed, it can be tempting to try to build a content inventory through any means necessary. Due to the way that Google scores website quality, this isn’t a great idea; an entire domain can be dragged down by its worst pages. Go through your very old content and make sure that it meets your current editorial standards. Add images, improve grammar and extend the length of content as necessary. At the same time, you may want to check on the continued accuracy of any facts and statements.

comments7. Take a Look at Your Least Visited Content

If you have a few pages or posts that are never viewed, you might want to consider either redoing them or deleting them entirely. As mentioned above, a single low quality piece of content can actually have a detrimental effect on your site’s overall quality rating. But sometimes there’s a reason that content isn’t being viewed. Perhaps it is poorly keyword optimized or it has a particularly generic title. Improving upon this content could increase your site traffic without needing to create entirely new content.

8. Answer Comments and Engage Visitors

Many visitors — through many comment systems — will be notified when you’ve replied to them. If you want to create a highly engaging website, as well as build customer relationships, responding to comments and otherwise directly engaging visitors on older posts and pages is a superb opportunity to do so. Readers will also be able to benefit from the comment thread when they visit your post or page in the future.

grammar9. Run a Spelling and Grammar Tool

Sometimes there are issues that just slip past us. There are a few tools that you can use to check your spelling and grammar: Grammarly and After the Deadline are two of the most popular. If you’re already editing your old content, it can’t hurt to check for any grammar, spelling and style errors.

10. Try to Avoid Repeating Yourself

If you post too many articles on a single topic, you could end up in a situation where you’re actually competing against yourself. It’s better to improve upon old articles than to repeat or rehash them, as tempting as it may be to cover ground that is familiar to you. If you do need to write again on a similar topic, make sure that your new content is different from your old content in structure and focus.

archive11. “Archive” Content That You No Longer Want to Promote

What do you do with content that’s still valuable but isn’t great? You don’t want to get rid of it — but you also don’t want to be judged on it. Archive it by moving it to less often trafficked areas of your site. For instance, you might remove it from all categories except for one in a WordPress blog. It will still be accessible through search engines — and still contribute to overall SEO — but it won’t be as easily viewed by the casual reader. You can also add a banner or statement at the top, such as “We’ve covered this topic in a new article! Click here to read our updated thoughts…”

Every piece of content on a website contributes to its overall quality and health. If your older content is languishing unattended, your entire site will suffer. Taking some time to renew, revitalize and repair your old content is a great way to get a boost without having to invest in all new media — and it’s also a good way to take a bit of a mental break and get some inspiration for the future.